Monday, December 06, 2010


The White House appears to be close to a deal that would extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for perhaps two years, possibly with an extension of unemployment benefits as compensation. I can't say that the dealmaking makes me happy, but it doesn't make me want to write something like this:

What makes Nancy Pelosi think that this president even WANTS anything else? At this point, it's pretty clear that lip service to working Americans is all this guy does, while he amasses chits with Wall Street to be cashed in for a fat Wall Street paycheck when he leaves office....

Does anyone actually believe that an extension of unemployment benefits will be part of the final package?

I know a lot of you believe this "Manchurian president" idea -- you think he's come to office with the goal of fooling us into thinking that he shares our beliefs and goals when in fact he shares none of them, and wants only to do to the country more or less what Republicans would do. The fighting between parties? It's all theater? Obama's alleged incompetence as an advocate for his agenda? A smokescreen, because it isn't really his agenda.

Here's my problem with this argument: Barack Obama is the most hated man in America. He has a wife and two young daughters, and death threats against him are reportedly 400% greater than those faced by his predecessor. If it's all theater and he's just faking it, isn't there an easier, less punishing, less threatening way for him to do that? Couldn't he simply stop arguing for policies that stir up hate in the heartland? Couldn't he become more like Ben Nelson or Harold Ford? Wouldn't that be easier -- and safer -- while leading to similar results?

The argument is that he's the political equivalent of the Washington Generals -- the team that exists solely to lose to the Harlem Globetrotters, while maintaining the illusion that the Trotters have an opponent. But when was the last time you heard of a Washington Generals player being viciously fouled? How much punishment do the Globetrotters dish out to the Generals? How angry does play get? That's theater disguised as competition. If Obama vs. the GOP is all Kabuki, why isn't it like that?

I know what your answer to that will be: pro wrestling. But after a scripted wrestling match, it's likely that either wrestler, the hero or the villain, will come away really banged up. In this supposedly staged political cage match, if the Democrat is just a clever actor playing a part, why is he inevitably the one who takes one in the jaw, while Republicans always seem to walk away unscathed -- even when they lose elections?

For that matter -- stepping away from the sports metaphor for a second -- why did Republicans lose the election in 2008 in the first place? John McCain had been a mainstream media hero. Barack Obama was the underdog who overperformed. Why didn't The Puppetmasters Who Control Everything use the media to allow Obama to come close, like Stallone in the first Rocky movie, but not actually win? Remember, McCain actually led in the polls briefly in September 2008 -- if Republicanism is what they want, why didn't the powers-that-be just let him take it all? Why didn't Obama just let him take it all, if he's just a fat cats' plant?

No, Obama isn't passionately, solidly progressive. But I just don't buy the notion that he's a cynic acting as a Judas goat to lead progressives astray and lead America into the arms of the GOP. I think he genuinely wants some of what we want, and genuinely lacks the political skills to attain it. We can argue case by case, but the notion that he's getting exactly what he wants -- see also Laurence Lewis at Daily Kos -- strikes me as absurd.

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